Indian Law

For a century, Davis Graham and Stubbs LLP has served clients in the Rocky Mountain West – this history has given us a wealth of experience in the field of Indian law. Today, our attorneys represent companies doing business with tribes in a wide range of matters, and companies with project development that have other tribal concerns. We have handled matters involving Indian lands and other Indian law issues throughout the U.S., including New Mexico (Navajo, Jicarilla), Arizona (Navajo, White Mountain Apache, San Carlos Apache), Oklahoma (Osage), Colorado (Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute), Utah (Northern Ute), Wyoming (Shoshone-Arapahoe), Montana (Blackfeet, Crow, Fort Peck), North Dakota (Ft. Berthold, Yankton Sioux), Virginia (Mattaponi), and Nevada (Western Shoshone, Paiute).

We routinely represent companies operating on Indian lands concerning rights-of-way, access, and other surface use disputes; royalties, severance, and other taxes; tribal regulation; cultural resources; permitting; and Department of Interior approvals for agreements with tribes. We also represent companies in a wide variety of matters that raise Indian law issues including commercial, real estate investment, governmental housing, and regulatory concerns.

Tribal Oil & Gas

DGS represents tribal oil and gas lessees from initial exploration to final reclamation. We work with a wide range of oil and gas companies in obtaining permits for seismic operations, obtaining and defending oil and gas leases, posting bonds, obtaining approval of permits to drill, and acquiring necessary permits for, among other things, produced water and air emissions.  We assist clients throughout the due diligence and negotiation process, including complex tribal jurisdictional issues, agreements under the Indian Mineral Leasing Act and the Indian Mineral Development Act, the HEARTH Act and obtaining the necessary approvals from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

We assist clients in obtaining BIA and Bureau of Land Management approval for federal oil and gas units, frequently counsel clients on unit disputes, and have prosecuted and defended disputes between unit operators and non-operators over issues such as participating areas, drainage, and ownership interests.  For mature oil and gas properties we assist clients in issues such as lease termination, plugging and abandoning wells, and reclamation.

Mining

We represent mining companies through the regulatory process to obtain state and federal approvals for mining operations in areas of traditional significance for tribes, or that are within the former territory of such tribes.  We advise mining companies throughout the permitting process, including environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), cultural reviews under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and tribal consultation under various laws and executive orders.  We have successfully defended projects against claims that the use of federal lands infringes on tribal members’ religious liberty, including claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

Renewable Energy

We represent utility-scale renewable energy developers seeking to develop wind and solar installations on or near tribal lands.  In addition to the permitting, environmental and cultural issues arising under NEPA and the NHPA, wind projects may involve obtaining permits under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).  As eagles are culturally important to many Indian tribes, Indian law and tribal issues may arise in renewable energy projects that are not necessarily located in close proximity to Indian lands.  DGS has represented companies seeking permits under the BGEPA.

Sacred Sites

Because many Native American religious beliefs have connections to certain land areas, both on and off Indian reservations, the sensitive issue of Native American sacred sites increasingly arises in regard to project development.  This occurs throughout the range of development in the West, from extractive and renewable energy projects, to transmission, transportation, recreation an educational facilities and activities.  DGS attorneys are skilled in helping clients navigate this often highly-charged issue, from negotiating with tribes and federal agencies on mitigation or project re-siting, to litigating claims that clients’ projects or activities harm such sites.

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